We're just about a week and a half to Major League Baseball's trade deadline, and the serious wheeling and dealing has yet to begin. As we continue our series of primers, we arrive in one of baseball's best divisions: The AL East. We know two teams are going to be buyers just as they are every single season. Let's check out all five, with the big news being the availability of a pitcher who just made his first All-Star Game.
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Needs: Starting pitching, possibly an outfielder.
Notes: The Boston Globe reports: "The Sox have inquired and discussed everyone from Ubaldo Jimenez, Felix Hernandez, Carlos Beltran, Jose Reyes, Jeff Francoeur, Jeff Baker, Michael Cuddyer, Ty Wigginton, Hiroki Kuroda, Ted Lilly, Jeremy Guthrie, Ryan Ludwick, Josh Willingham, Conor Jackson, Ryan Spilborghs, Mike Adams, and others."
OK, so, that's a lot. But notice they've only "inquired and discussed." That doesn't mean anything serious. And then we're presented with WEEI.com's report that the Red Sox are not "aggressively" pursuing anyone. That would contradict a report that the Red Sox were aggressive in trying to land Beltran. The biggest area of need would appear to be starting pitching, due to some injuries and underperformance, but it sounds like the Red Sox may only make minor moves and count on Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz returning to health as being enough to improve the club. If they stumble into a big losing streak here in the next few days, things might change, but the Red Sox are currently in playoff position by seven games. There's just no reason to do anything drastic, especially with Lester coming back soon and Buchholz eventually.
New York Yankees
Needs: Starting pitching
Notes: There was a brief rumor involving Beltran, but that was shot down pretty quickly by Bob Klapisch. Basically, the overwhelming majority of Yankees rumors thus far have been them staying after Rockies ace Ubaldo Jimenez. Catching prospect Jesus Montero's name has been thrown around, but Jon Heyman of SI.com tweeted that the Rockies wouldn't take any deal with Montero as the centerpiece. They'd reportedly be interested in the young slugger, just not with him being the best player coming back. So, yes, the Rockies are asking for a lot. The Yankees will have to decide how important it is to land Jimenez and move from there. If it becomes increasingly obvious that won't happen, the Yankees may move down to the Kuroda/Lilly range.
Tampa Bay Rays
Status: Ready to deal
Needs: Offensive punch, bullpen help.
Players available: B.J. Upton, James Shields
Notes: According to Buster Olney of ESPN.com, the Rays have put "everything on the table." That includes All-Star pitcher Shields, who may now become the focus -- instead of Jimenez -- of all the teams wanting a top-line starting pitcher. Olney notes the Reds are interested in Shields, and they certainly have the farm system to give the Rays something of value back. There are plenty of other teams in need of starting pitching, such as the Tigers, Rangers, Diamondbacks, Cardinals and Indians. Shields could become the hot name in trade rumors here in the next few days. As for Upton, Desmond Jennings is in the minors ready to step in as the center fielder and Upton is becoming increasingly more frustrating and expensive -- yet he has loads of talent. This might finally be the year he's dealt, with the Phillies, Braves and Nationals being reasonable destinations. Meanwhile, if the Rays can find a way to get hot here in the next few series, they'll likely look to bolster their lineup with a cheap bat. It wouldn't be surprising to see the Rays trade Upton and also try to play for this season, making them both a buyer and a seller. If they do fall several more games out of the race, more players like Johnny Damon and Casey Kotchman could also become available.
Toronto Blue Jays
Status: Mostly holding
Players available: Jon Rauch, Octavio Dotel, Frank Francisco, Jason Frasor, Shawn Camp
Possible matches: Cardinals, Pirates, Diamondbacks, Braves, Phillies
Notes: Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos recently told MLB.com that if he had to guess, he'd guess that they don't make any moves. But if you look at those five relief pitchers mentioned above, those are all free agents at the end of the season. Anthopoulos never said he wouldn't listen to any potential offers, so he's likely to be fielding calls from contending teams in need of bullpen help. The guess here is a couple of those five players get traded for unexciting prospects. So not much excitement to see here as the Jays gear for an AL East run in the near future.
Players available: Jeremy Guthrie
Possible matches: Reds, Cardinals, Tigers, Diamondbacks
Notes: The only name that has really surfaced in legitimate trade rumors is Guthrie, and you can pretty well expect him to be gone before we turn the calendar to August. Take J.J. Hardy off the table, as he's now signed a three-year extension. Vladimir Guerrero and Derrek Lee are veteran bats, each on a one-year contract, so it's possible they'll come up in talks (of course, Guerrero's injury doesn't help). It's possible things are quiet here, which is weird with a team so far out of the race.
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